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The Next Big Franchising Concept

As recently reported in Bloomberg Businessweek and other publications ( Proctor and Gamble Company, through wholly owned subsidiary Agile Pursuits Franchising, Inc., has begun the rollout of new franchises, hitching two of its popular brands – Tide and Mr. Clean – to service based franchises. These enterprises appear to be the first time a maker of household products is lending its brand names to the franchised service industry, offering technological tweaks and new services to differentiate its concepts. Per the article, Proctor and Gamble ranks the fifth most significant global brand in terms of its brandequity value.  In determining which of its brands to marry with services, Proctor and Gamble explained that it was drawn to cleaners and car washes because they arehighly fragmented markets where consumer expectations are not high.

Mr. Clean Car Wash launched in 2007, and now has 16 locations in Ohio, Georgia and Texas; more are under development.   It features proprietary computer-guided car washing machinery, which adjusts for different makes and models. Agile Pursuits Franchising also added new Mr. Clean-branded cleaning chemicals developed by its R&D division, including Mr. Clean Wheel Guard to keep tires shiny, and Febreze odor eliminators for interior services.

Tide Dry Cleaners launched in 2008 with a pilot of three dry cleaner stores in Kansas City.  It is now going national (actively seeking franchisees in Ohio and Georgia: with the promise of superior service, including drive-thru drop-off and pickup, a 24-hour drop box and lockers so that customers can pick up their cleaning after-hours. The dry cleaners are also trying to stand out with new technology, proprietary formulas that offer restoration of white, black and colors and environmentally friendly cleaning solutions.

This concept of franchising already popular brands clearly has a big upside.  As a high equity brand, Proctor and Gamble’s brand reputation is a key selling point in this franchise concept.  A customer may have a greater level of trust in a franchise backed by a company and products they are already familiar with.  Moreover, as car washes and dry cleaners are generally unbranded, with no strong national franchises to compete with, the names and logos for Mr. Clean and Tide give a franchise instant recognition and have value for attracting new customers.

Notwithstanding the promise, there is some downside. Disputes can and do arise between franchisors and franchisees.  Customer service issues or poorly managed stores could tarnish the Mr. Clean and Tide brands.  Or the franchises might not be perceived as anything better than the mom and pop car washes or dry cleaners customers already frequent.

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